Some people argue that the front cover’s job is to sell the back cover and the back cover should sell the flap.
At Rethink Press, we disagree. The front cover’s job is to sell the book. The back cover’s job is also to sell the book. If your book has a flap then it’s the flap’s job to sell the book. Your table of contents should sell the book. Every page of your book should sell the book.
All these elements should sell the book because you can’t make a potential buyer look at your book in the order you want them to. So, if the front cover didn’t succeed then the back cover should be the convincer – but never forget that some people will go straight to the back and others will ignore the cover and start looking at the Table of Contents, whether they’re checking out a physical book or the “Look Inside” function online. So now we’ve made it clear that every aspect of your book’s packaging should sell the book (and nothing else), let’s see what you should be putting on the back cover.
5 Back Cover Essentials
1. The Sales Blurb. This should say who the book is for: it could be phrased as “For people who want…”, or it could describe the central problem your market has. Followed by what they’ll get or how you will solve the problem (your big promise) and why they should make their tiny investment to buy it and read it now. Keep this short and sweet – two or three short paras, which end with the…
2. Bullets of Benefits. The last sentence of your two-para sales blurb should end with something like, “What you’ll learn when you read this book:” or “When you’ve read this book, you will know/understand/be able to:” then follow this with five bullet points of benefits. This is your chance to make your big promises and paraphrase the best bits from your Table of Contents to whet the reader’s appetite.
3. Praise. Some back covers have nothing but praise because the book publishers and designers realise how very important social proof is in selling books. However, unless the praise on your book makes it absolutely clear why someone should read your book, in one brief sentence (you can include a maximum of three short quotes), and that the quote is from someone whose name the reader should recognise or whose title shows they know what they’re talking about, it might be better to concentrate on your own sales blurb.
4. Author Bio. Keep this short and focused on why you, the author, are uniquely qualified to write this book and what motivated you to do it. Three sentences should cover it (you can put a longer Author Bio on the final page inside your book). List any key credentials and qualifications but don’t write a CV or waste space on irrelevant details. Always remember the reader is looking for “what’s in it for them” to read your book. Forget stuff like, “I’m a loving dad” unless the book is about “being a loving dad”.
5. Author Photo. A professionally photographed headshot of you adds character and illustration to all the words on your back cover, as well as increasing your recognisability as an authority. It can be colour or black and white, but should show you looking friendly, likeable and trustworthy. A fuzzy holiday snap or your head cut out of a family photo won’t cut it. The designer will want it sent to them as a hi-resolution jpg.
Get these five elements short, sweet and tightly focused (a back cover that is covered in text with not enough “white” space is a turn off to the reader) and your back cover will be doing a great selling job for you and your book.
(Cover designs above by Joe Gregory and Jane Dixon-Smith)